Thursday, August 20, 2009

Should Sexual Predators Be Baptized

Several years ago I was called to jury duty in a three strikes case involving a man who was being tried on a three strike law that would have put him in jail for life for sexual crimes against teenage girls. Being the father of seven daughters I was very troubled by the case and would have probably voted to put him away for life. The district attorney dismissed me as a juror when the defendant's lawyer asked if I would listen to the evidence presented and judge it on the basis of the testimony given. I have never had much sympathy for sexual predators and would have probably found him guilty. The District attorney wasn't going to take a chance that a college educated person like me would have a bleeding heart and removed me on one of his exceptions. I didn't think due to recidivism that sexual deviants had little if any chance of ever changing.

This week I read a very though-provoking post entitled How Is It He Eateth and Drinketh with Sinners by a former Mormon missionary who challenged my hard stance and preconceived notions that such criminal cannot be changed.

The blogger told of the miraculous change that came over this former sexual predator who ended up joining the church and reforming his life. Elder Thatcher shared this missionary story:

Perhaps we need to take Christ at his word when he suggests there is something to be gained by ministering to sinners. It makes not just Christian-sense, but, as it was stated in the article, social-safety sense to minister to these people. If we let our revenge and anger blind us we will punish ourselves by making our society less safe rather than guiding these souls into healing and growth.

As an LDS missionary we tracted into a man who confided in us was convicted decades before as a sexual predator. He couldn’t read and lived in poverty. He told us he wanted a clean start to his life. My father sent him the Book or Mormon on cassette and he listened to it.

After he was interviewed for baptism by another missionary, the mission president talked to me on the phone. He said, “How many years do we make this man wait before he gets to start again? Does he have to wait 20 years? 30 years? 40 years? I think he deserves another chance, Elder Thatcher, don’t you?”

I know my words right now might be very different if I had been the victim of sexual abuse, but after meeting, teaching, and baptizing this man (who, by the way, I hear is one of the only people still active from the ranks of those I saw baptized) I can’t help but wonder how many souls are lost and communities are made less safe because we refuse to minister to the sinners among us.

If this man had been in the county in which I lived in California he might have been sitting in prison instead of rehabilitated by conversion to the Gospel. I guess not every case is the same and that is why the Lord is only one who can truly judge a man or woman.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My question is do we take the chance when our children are involved. Recently a predator moved into our branch and my famiy is not attending. The next branch or ward is several hours away. There will come a day when he is alone with a child. I do not want to takke the chance that he is or is not rehabilitated.